One of the great misconceptions about green building is that it costs more. Personal experience has proven that such statements are at the very least misleading and generally down right wrong. Even studies by McGraw-Hill publishing have shown that buildings meeting LEED certification cost plus or minus 2% of conventionally built structures. So where does this misconception come from?
One of the first concepts to understand about sustainable building products is that there’s no crap to be accepted. To be sustainable a product must be high quality and durable. What leads to this huge misconception is the simple fact that you can’t find low-end garbage that is green. There is a reason why some bamboo floors cost only $3 per square foot and others cost $5 and that has everything to do with quality. But when you compare a truly green product to another equal high quality product without the sustainable attributes the prices are generally the same and often favor the green material. An Eco Timber strandwoven bamboo made with low VOC waterborne finishes, urea formaldehyde free binders and FSC certified raw material doesn’t cost any more than another brand of bamboo that lacks these merits. And Eco Timber received the #1 and #2 floor nods from Consumer Reports for three years running.
If you’re budget pushes you to go with low-end, non durable junk, that’s your choice. But you’re not saving money because you chose not to be green. Your’e saving money because you chose cost over quality.
The same can be said for nearly any material that goes into a home. In some cases, you pay more for a green product because it is one of the rare products in that sector that exceeds all others. An example of this is Breathe Easy cabinetry. There cabinets are formaldehyde free and available with FSC certified materials. What makes them more expensive than other standardized lines are traits of quality and durability. Breathe Easy uses 3/4″ plywood opposed to half-inch (and even 3/8″ sometimes). Breathe Easy also use regionally grown maple plywood, opposed to Baltic Birch which is good, but weaker and less durable. Whatever the case, it’s not going green that costs more; it’s the cost of high quality materials and designs. As always, you get what you pay for.